Cubs notes from Sept. 17.
Manager Lou Piniella thought long and hard about whether to pitch staff aces Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly on three days’ rest this week. Win or lose, at least Piniella can rest easier to know that general manager Jim Hendry concurs with the decision, which some observers consider to be a dice roll of sorts. “It’s a normal move,” Hendry said. “It sets us up the rest of the way with the days off that we have on Thursday and Monday. We could have gotten out of whack if they had pitched on their regular days this time. “(San Diego’s Jake) Peavy has done it a couple times in the last month or so, and (Milwaukee’s Ben Sheets) will do it this week. It’s part of the game. It’s September. You cut back on the side stuff in between (starts) and go after it.” Zambrano will pitch tonight, while Lilly will take the ball Wednesday. “Nah, it’s not a gamble at all,” Hendry said. “Greg Maddux has done it a lot of times in his career, and his record well over .500 with it. It’s something that you got to do. You have to look at the whole package of 12 games and give yourself the best chance to win.” Hendry seemed to be more concerned about what effect the bevy of close games would have on the bullpen in the days to come. “It’s a lot of pressure to 4-2, 5-3 and 3-2 games,” Hendry said. “On some days like (Sunday), it would be been nice to blow somebody out when we could have and give the bullpen a day off.” Where’s Geo? It appears the front office made a mistake when it declined to take a closer look at catcher Geovany Soto earlier in the season. With four hits Sunday in St. Louis, Soto raised his batting average to .423 and slugging percentage to .692 in nine games this season. “I don’t know how to answer that (question) at this moment,” Piniella said about his plans for the position in the final days of the season. “I wish that I had a definitive answer, but I don’t. We’ll just have to watch and see.” Jason Kendall made the start Monday. “Let’s see what the next few days bring,” said Piniella, who liked what he saw of Soto in spring training. “We’ll play teams that score a few more runs, so we’ve got to score a few runs ourselves.” Michael Barrett, Henry Blanco, Rob Bowen, Koyie Hill also were tried at the position this season, but none was the answer. Blanco spent much of the season on the disabled list, Hill was sent to the minors and Barrett and Bowen were traded elsewhere. Mulligan Wanted It Piniella could do it over again, then his team wouldn’t underachieve in the early weeks of the season. It wasn’t until a 7-2 victory at Washington in the 81st game of the season that the North Siders finally moved above the .500 mark permanently. “Any time you get off to a slow start like we did, it makes for a lot uphill climbing,” Piniella said. “It goes to show you the importance of a good start and getting out of the gate well.” Hurts So Good The division race has exacted a physical toll on Piniella and Hendry in recent days. Piniella showed the effects of a head cold, while Henry sported an unsightly blue mark on his lip. “I’ll see Dr. (Stephen) Adams when he comes in,” Piniella said. “I don’t know if that will make me better or worsen it.” As for Hendry, he inflicted the blemish when he bit hard on his lower lip while he watched a game recently. “I thought that I had bit on my pen or something, because (the area) was all blue,” Hendry said. More Cubs news is at www.dailysouthtown.com/sports.